Did the Nazis literally "march Jews into ovens"???

I have none handy, but I’ve been hearing variations of “marched them into the ovens” all of my life, in all media. It’s a metaphor, fercryinoutloud! A shocking image that is not entirely accurate, but only because it skips a couple steps.

The Nazis weren’t simply conducting massacres as so many other societies like the Mongols, Iroquoi and, yes, the Israelites. They extracted living labor from captive people, calculated down to the calorie how much they could work until they died. That’s why the did the selection at the camp entrance. Otherwise they could have just run the train into a trough, and filled it with water like a canal lock.

There were precious few “Boy in the Striped Pajamas,” and Sophie was never given a choice: children, crippled and elderly were killed immediately. Excepting these, half the Jews were worked to death. The other half, in the conquered USSR, were simply massacred in the traditional manner.

Whatever. In my experience online. When a person questions the details of the Holocaust, they are invariably trying to raise questions of doubt that it happened. Maybe you’re the special one out of hundreds of conversations who doesn’t but Occcams razor is on my side after so many years of it.

Give me a warning. I’ll wear it proudly next to my other one. 16 years here and I still have t said anything I have regretted or would not say to your face.

For whatever it’s worth, I parsed the OP as asking if a particular phrase was always an oversimplification or ever actually true in a literal sense as backed by historical data. If there was any denialism, it didn’t come out to me.

And from I’ve read of Nazi methodology and how I understand their pragmatism, if docile, unafraid people were easier (and therefore cheaper and quicker) to kill, then that’s how they would do it.

Absent any evidence to the contrary should we not assume good faith? The question is were any Nazi victims literally thrown into ovens (I’ve heard variants of this, it’s not something the OP made up), I don’t get where this leads to outright Holocaust denial.

Moderator Warning

Suit yourself. This is an official warning for ignoring moderator instructions. Drop the subject now. As I said, if you wish to make such an accusation do it in the Pit.

General Questions Moderator


Let’s drop the discussion of whether or not the OP was denialism, which has developed into a hijack.

General Questions Moderator

If I may defend myself since the seed of doubt is out there. For the record, I’m not a denier nor was the purpose behind my question.

I’m not questioning the details of the Holocaust, I’m asking a question about how it was committed. Thanks and this will be my final comment on the subject as per Moderator instructions.

This whole thread seems a bit silly to me. The phrase *‘marching them into the ovens’ *is obviously not meant to be taken literally. The Nazis never had a system in place to do this, nor would it really be possible. People would turn and run and face any other death (machine guns etc.) rather than be burned alive en masse.

There are many documented cases of the Nazis locking hundreds of victims in barns etc. and then setting the building on fire. Those that tried to escape were shot, but the vast majority would have died inside. I can’t remember the exact link but I’ve also read of death camps outside of Germany run by German allies where the even more brutish guards would occasionally throw people into crematoriums alive. These are all exceptions not the rule…

Prior to information about the death camps becoming known to the British Parliament in late 1942 there was a great deal of antisemitism here in the UK. A book was published in Feb 1942 by an author who had been a political advisor to the army. In it he warned that the Jews caused the war and after Germany’s defeat they had plans to take control of Britain by 1948.


I’m not sure what this has to do with question asked in the OP. Let’s stick to the subject.

General Questions Moderator

As an aside, I recommend the recent book Bloodlands as an overview of the topic.

The author made a point I hadn’t fully realized: that the Nazi extermination system operated in parallel to the Nazi concentration camp system. In fact, many victims of the Nazis never saw a “concentration camp” - they were simply killed immediately, either shot and thrown into mass graves, or sent to specially-designed “death camps” where they were killed almost immediately on arrival.

Auschwitz was an unusual example, because it combined a killing facility with a concentration camp slave-labour facility.

Most of the accounts from the victim perspective we have of the Nazi crimes in fact come from concentration camps, for a simple reason: survivors of the death camps were very few. Those who lived after liberation (only in some cases to die of typhus or starvation) were concentration camp victims.

A lot of the victims were killed by the Einsatzgruppen. These were detachments of SS personnel who followed the German armies in the invasion of the Soviet Union. Their job was to round up “enemies” (mainly Jews and members of the Communist Party) and kill them. They would ride into a town the German army had captured, gather a hundred or so people, and take them out in the woods and shoot them. Then they’d have Red Army POW’s bury the bodies in a mass grave.

Because all these people were killed so quickly, they never entered the camp system. The Germans never had to transport them or provide any supplies to them. And German military units were ordered to stay away when the Einsatzgruppen were “working”. So the killings they carried out left a minimal paper trail. But it’s estimated that the Einsatzgruppen killed one to two million people.

The whole system of the “Final Solution” was kludge after kludge, trial and error. It’s not like anyone laid out the whole process in detail from the start. It evolved.

The original plan apparently was that whole villages were marched out of town as the area was taken, they dug trenches where they were shot in the back and buried there. The army had “morale problems” with this, because many complained they signed up to fight the for the fatherland, not to shoot women and children. It seems to me the fact that the “morale problem” was noted high up must mean the grumbling was particularly loud and widespread.

The roving death squads, apparently, could not keep up - plus, what do you do with people while waiting for them? You can’t station a guard around every village. Concentration camps were the answer. Soldiers had less morale problems over arresting “enemies” and loading them on trains.

The problems just followed on each other. Gas was selected as it was quicker, less messy and more efficient than mass shooting. As others mentioned, the victims were deceived by the ruse that it was simply showers so they walked in without much objection. Then the Nazis had to figure out what to do with the bodies, and as mentioned - they found out the hard way mass graves didn’t work, so burning the bodies was decided upon.

I don’t know that they applied any clever formula “this calorie level will allow them to work for X month” so much as with food in scarce supply, they gave out as little food as they could, but enough to keep the inmates able to work. If they died, there were replacements.

And also, not all children were killed. The famous photo of the small boy with his hands up in the Warsaw ghetto, he apparently survived. Google “death camps children” and there are plenty of pictures of child inmates. IIRC Dr. Mengele also selected a number to experiment on (i.e. torture).

Contrary to images of precise and detailed control, the arrangements were as chaotic and disorganized as any military or government bureaucracy.

you do have to wonder about the mindset of the people who thought this up and then had to solve each problem in turn.

There’s much to be said about the mindset, why it happened on such a scale with so many participants. One of the most illuminating quotes about the Nazi mindset is that of Dr. Fritz Klein, who was a camp doctor at Bergen-Belsen. When asked how he could reconcile his role in atrocity with medical ethics he replied; “My Hippocratic oath tells me to cut a gangrenous appendix out of the human body. The Jews are the gangrenous appendix of mankind. That’s why I cut them out.”

Others just thought they were eliminating an enemy fifth column, no different from fighting at the front. Himmler in a famous speech says that had the Jews not been purged from German life they would have betrayed Germany as they did in World War I (or so the Nazis believed); “…we know how difficult it would be for us if today – under bombing raids and the hardships and deprivations of war – if we were still to have the Jews in every city as secret saboteurs, agitators, and inciters. If the Jews were still lodged in the body of the German nation, we would probably by now have reached the stage of 1916-17.”

Does Jasenovic count? While it was run by the Ustase, (the Croatian fascist regime), rather than the Nazis, they did indeed burn people alive there.

The Ustase were allies of the Nazis, if not actually Nazis.

What’s scary is reading what happened to the perpetrators listed in the article - basically, mostly nothing for quite a few years.

I would tend to agree with this. If you ever look at pictures of survivors from the Andersonville Prison, from America’s Civil War, they look hauntingly familiar (you can do a google image search and will quickly find men who were living skeletons).

I think there were a lot of factors at work here. Cremation isn’t an especially rapid way for mass murder, and the Nazis still believed they needed, until the very end, the slave labor that Jews, Poles, Gypsies and other undesirables were providing to help win the war effort. But when the wheels came off, and Nazi Germany was in its own death spiral, concentration camp prisoners were literally the last group of people who would get any of the rapidly dwindling food supply. They were already surviving on mimimum calories at the best of times. When the Red Army was crushing the Eastern front, and the Allies were doing the same in the west, any chance for people to actually survive the endgame in a concentration camp would have been minimal at best.

As I have understood original purpose of the ovens, they were fed originally from corpses that were not smelling too nicely because their graves were too shallow, and had become exposed, leaving rotting corpses laying around exposed to the elements. It was the best way they could come up with to rid the camp’s mass graves and make the disease, smell, and other issues go away given their contining dwindling resources.

What people can do to other people, especially during war, is truly sad and brutal. Looking at those Civil War tin types were truly a revelation, because they showed to the me that there is no good way to starve someone to death. But beyond that, hiding that behavior from the outside world was not going to be easy, either. Corpses could be dug up, but burning them left little left to identify.

The Nazis were not doing anyone any favors. But I don’t believe “marching people into ovens” was an actual part of the “final solution”. As I understand it, the “Final Solution” did not include an ending that the Nazi’s were the losers of WWII. The concentration camp prisoners were simply closer to death by starvation/exhaustion/exposure/whatever, and they needed a lot more to bring them back to something resembling normal health that simply didn’t exist at the end of the Third Reich.

The Nazis were not a monolith. Nazis ideology was a mass of self-contradicting nonsense. So when the war started to go bad, some Nazis were saying this was a reason to call a temporary halt to the extermination system and redirect resources to the war effort while other Nazi were saying this was a reason to put more effort into the extermination system so they could finish it quicker. It was a regime running at full speed in opposite directions.

The basic problem was that the food production and distribution system was breaking down, and the war machine was obviously appropriating whatever it could for the soldiers at the front. It wasn’t a deliberate starvation so much as a lack of supplies. Of course, it made no sense to feed your slave labour so little they couldn’t even get up in the morning and slave away. They fed them enough to get the job done.

The same logic applies at Andersonville. The supply chain broke down and the paper money was worthless, the Confederates had no food for thousands of starving prisoners, feeding useless prisoners was low on the priority list - so they starved with insufficient rations and died of unsanitary conditions by the hundreds. IIRC some of the front-line troops were also short of food. It was common for troops to raid (“forage”) local farms for whatever they could find.

I don’t recall reading of the German camps digging up the mass graves to burn, so much as realizing “that didn’t work well” and using the ovens to dispose of subsequent bodies. But yes, considering there are comments on the record about the ovens running day and night, I assume that was the bottleneck in the disposal of victims. (Odd they didn’t seem to run out of fuel for them).